Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Where Are You?

This has been such a fun reading month!  Whenever I teach class, I always pick a different location.  Because it's reading month, each week I've chosen a different book!  So much fun for me to find the books, and so much fun to hear the kids guess which story I am in!

Note: If you're wearing a green shirt, you become a floating head while teaching in front of a green screen!

Week 1: Maurice Sendek

Week 2: Mo Willems

Week 3: David Wiesner

Week 4: Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The (Google) Fundamentals Apply

A little over three years ago, I completed my Google Certified Educator training for both level one and level two, becoming certified as both.

Today, I completed the level one coursework and exam again, so I could re-certify.  (In an ironic twist, Timehop notified me that I passed the certification exam exactly three years ago today!)

I love, love, love how the training has updated itself over the past few years!  (Well, not really updated itself, since someone, or more likely several someones, made the updates!)  

If you are an educator who uses any of the Google tools, you might want to think about the Fundamentals Training.  If you're familiar with the tools, you will find some lessons you can skim right through.  However.  Even someone like me, who uses a plethora of Google's tools all day, every day, learned something new during the first training and again during this recertification training!  (And to be perfectly honest, I learned several new things!)

The 13-unit course is completely self-paced.  Each lesson has an estimated time-spent, and depending on your experience with the content, you may complete it much quicker, or you may use the full time and then some.  At the end of each lesson, there is a review quiz you can take as often as you need until you feel confident.  At the end of each unit, there is a review quiz you can take as often as you need to until you pass. 

The course is so valuable on its own!  Don't be daunted by the certification exam at the end - you don't need to even take it unless you want to get the little badge (like the one on the right side of this post!)  It's icing on the cake for those who want (or who are required to certify by their school or organization), but not necessary to gain the knowledge you'll acquire through the lessons.

(And isn't it the process, the journey, or the knowledge that we're after, not the destination or grade?!)


Sunday, March 28, 2021

More Reading Month!

Time for another technology detour!

As a bibliophile, I have so many books in my collection it's almost embarrassing.  Maybe it won't be as embarrassing when I finally have my "library" organized and "open" in my basement, but for now... yeah.  There's a lot of books down there.  And each of them was specifically chosen, too.

I have so many favorite authors, series, books... but if when I narrow things down, there are two at the top of my list.  Gyo Fujikawa and Jill Krementz.  They are about as different as you can be.

If the name rings a bell, it might be because her husband was a rather famous author, too.  You may have heard of Kurt Vonnegut?  Jill Krementz's books are totally opposite of her husbands.

My first introduction to Jill Krementz came in the form of A Very Young Rider.  It still holds as my all time favorite children's equestrian book.  The book is a "year in the life" of 9-year-old Vivi Malloy.  It is filled with black and white photos of daily life as a pony rider.  Everything from dealing with the vet, to packing for horse shows are shown in vivid imagery, along with narration that made me wish I grew up in Vivi's world.

Jill Krementz began her career as a photo journalist, photographing life in the 1960s, including the March on the Pentagon in 1967, and the Vietnam War.  Not sure how she moved from there to chronicling the life and passions of children! 

In addition to her A Very Young Series (my favorites!) she also has a series called How it Feels where she interviewed children on a variety of more serious topics, including living with a physical disability, and dealing with parental divorce.  (I used to lend this book out to students - with parental permission - at least once a year.)  These books give young readers a glimpse into the lives of others who may be dealing with the same things they are.  

Though her books are all more than 25 years old, the lessons are still so relevant, the photographs still so inspiring, and the stories still so enjoyable.  Jill Krementz showed me that non-fiction can be just as mesmerizing as fiction.  I proudly have her entire Very Young series, and her entire How it Feels series, and even her coffee table book, The Jewish Writer, in addition to most of her Tough Enough board books, some of the earliest photography illustrated books for toddlers!


Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Today was So. Much. Fun!  Fifth grade got to partake in a GooseChase this afternoon as a wrap to March is Reading Month!  It wasn't a typical Battle end, but-

Oops.  Gotta back up a moment here.

Every year, our fifth graders participate in a Battle of the Books.  They are placed in teams, given a stack of 21 books to read (everyone on the team must read a certain number of books, and the team must ensure all books are read), and a variety of tasks (team song, team colors, team cheer, team name, etc).  The month culminates in this huge battle that takes an entire afternoon and is So. Much. Fun.

Enter Covid.

But.... thanks to GooseChase, Battle didn't exit!

GooseChase is an online scavenger hunt platform that has a special edu version perfect for schools.  The teachers modified the questions so that they would work with the GooseChase Platform, turning questions into missions that the kids had to complete.  GooseChase is an app, so we added it to the iPads and gave each team an iPad.  We set up the teams on GooseChase in advance, so the kids only had to click "play as guest" and enter the game code and password.  Super simple!  (and since no information was collected, safe!)

Instead of the standard "write the answer and race to turn it in" the teachers modified the questions so that kids had to type answers, submit photos, and submit videos.  Instead of questions being one at a time, every group in the same place at the same time, GooseChase allows you to set up automations.  That meant that questions were released in groups at a set time interval, and teams worked through as many questions as they could during the battle.  Instead of everyone being in the cafeteria, each team at a table, judges sitting across from the teams, we used Zoom.  The teachers were in Battle Headquarters, each team was in their own room with a teacher supervisor.  And thanks to the set-up, even the kids at home (who had "battle buddies" on site) were able to be actively engaged in this year's Battle!

Every educator can set up a free GooseChase EDU account and create unlimited games.  You can only have one active game at a time, and no more than five teams.  If you need more than that, you need to upgrade your account.  (Note: We did the whole battle on a free account!)

Like I said earlier.  It was So. Much. Fun!


Monday, March 22, 2021

MACUL 2021

Over the course of two days, I spent 19 hours staring at a screen.  Or sometimes two screens.  And one time, I even tried three screens.  That didn't go so well.

The only thing that could capture my attention that deeply and for that duration is, of course, the MACUL conference.  MACUL 21 to be exact.

I was blown away by the amazingness that was MACUL 21.  

Every session I went to was engaging, interesting, and full of that passion that flows through the halls when we're in the conference center.  I was amazed how palpable it was through the screen!  There were so many opportunities to interact with other session-goers and in many cases, the presenter, during the sessions.  I think I "went" to 12 sessions between the two days, plus the three keynotes.  I could write about all of them, but for now, here are some highlights:

  • Wanda Terral showed how to make an app that actually looks and works like an app, using a Google Slides template.  I actually had a lesson with 6th grade today on app design and modified the lesson based on my new knowledge!
  • Jennifer Hall presented a Tech Tip 411 that focused on AR/VR tools.  I can't wait to explore everything she shared!
  • Brian Aspinall highlighted Hacking the Classroom and from this session, I learned so much about the history of one of my favorite platforms, Scratch, along with all the intention behind coding in class.
  • Jeremy and Sara Badiner need to take their show on the road.  It was so much fun exploring the power of memes with them!  It was also a great reminder how much comprehension is needed to make "meming" of memes.
  • Melody Arabo left me with so much food for thought, both on advocating for current, appropriate materials and curriculum for students, and on teacher leadership.
  • All three keynotes, Dr. Sheldon Eakins, Gerry Brooks, and Aaron Dworkin were captivating, inspiring, and will likely warrant another post later on.
I can't wait to dig through my notes over the next few weeks and explore all the goodness gained from my favorite conference!  Even better, most sessions were recorded, so between April and July, I will get to "go to" the sessions I missed, and watch some of my favorites again.  Technology is amazing!  Look, I made it on the closing slide!  Mind blown!

P.S.  Each speaker listed is linked to their Twitter profile - I totally encourage you to follow them all!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Do New Then Review

Or at least that's what I told the third graders during their last tech class.

Everyone, including me always wants to jump to the part that's familiar, the part that we know we can be successful on, the part that's easy because we've already learned it.  This week, after thinking about that, I coined a new phrase - Do new, then review.  I explained to the kids that their first task is to work with the new content, and then, once that's done, they can review prior skills.

Ooops.  Some context might be helpful!

The last lesson in third grade tech was another mash-up for digital citizenship.  We used a little bit of Common Sense Media, and a little bit of Google Slides, and a little bit of my brain.

As a class, we watched and discussed the old version of Media Balance by CSM.  I like it particularly because the video uses the term "media" and not "technology" which lends itself to lots of engaging discussion.  After we watched the video, the kids had to go to Google Classroom and open up a Slides assignment where they were asked to sort six statements into true or false.

Once they sorted the statements (the new learning based on the video and discussion) they were then to practice changing fonts, sizes, and colors in the text boxes (review).  Explaining it that way to the kids - that they need to do the new ask first, and then they can review their skills in slides - I got to see a few lightbulbs go off.  They all sorted the statements and then got really creative with their fonts and colors.  Every student finished the activity this time, too... wonder if there is a connection?!

Interested in the lesson?  Send me an email, I'm happy to share!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Reading Month Fun!

I am a bibliophile.  I have a collection of books spanning from the early 1900s to present day.  These books include some signed copies, some first and early editions, and some books that are so worn they live in protective cases.  There are board books for babies and even a handful of books for grown-ups, though the bulk of the collection is for early readers through young adult.

That said, I have two most favorite author/illustrator combos.  And both of them are no longer publishing.  And I have nearly complete collections from both of them.

One of them is Gyo Fujikawa.

I fell in love with her illustrations as a child, and as an adult, I developed a deep respect for her work.

She was one of the pioneers in multicultural children's illustrations.  The first, actually, to include positive images of multicultural children in her books.  While she has many of her own books that she both authored and illustrated, she also illustrated some well-known stories, including Mother Goose and A Child's Garden of Verses.

Today, at least in my more educated world, diversity in books is nothing new.  It's a given.  In the 50s and 60s though, it was almost unheard of.

My personal favorite book of hers is Oh What A Busy Day.  I have the original copy from childhood!  At one point, there was a reprint of it and I purchased more copies than I care to admit and gave them as gifts.  I proudly have a nearly-complete collection of her books, and love sharing them with my nieces when they come over.  

The illustrations drew me in all those years ago, and Ms. Fujikawa's story keeps me coming back all these years later.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Flashback Friday Featuring Flipgrid!

(Insert wavy time-travel lines)

A few weeks ago was the Jewish holiday of Purim.  Purim is a very fun holiday for all, especially adults who are actually encouraged to imbibe.  (Crazy, I know!)  There are some deep rooted traditions to Purim, one of them being partaking in a chanting of the Megillah.

For Purim, the fifth grade usually travels to one of the Jewish senior residences nearby to chant Megillah.  Covid made that festive tradition impossible this year.  But we didn't let that stop us from a fantastic Megillah reading!  How, you ask?

Flipgrid, of course!

All the fifth graders still got to participate in chanting Megillah.  Dressed in costumes, in the safety of their own homes, they read their parts with gusto onto Flipgrid.  From there, each class was compiled into a MixTape and shared with the senior home.  

Enjoy our 2021 Megillah reading, courtesy of Flipgrid!
(P.S.  It's only about 20 minutes long, not 5.6 hours!)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

One Year Ago Today

The MACUL Conference happens every March in Michigan, and it is one of the highlights of my professional year.

Last year, I was very excited to see some of my favorite presenters, friends, and to present two sessions.  I love the MACUL setup when it's in Grand Rapids, it's so nice to be able to walk from my hotel room to the conference workshops and vendor hall.  I love being immersed in educational technology for 48 hours straight!

I was scheduled to leave Wednesday morning, my bag was packed and in the car, my tech was packed and ready.

But, like many others, I never made it.

As I headed into school for a Distance Learning meeting Wednesday morning to plan for the "if we have to close" scenario, my hopes were high.  It was comfy-cozy day of spirit week, I was happy.  I left that meeting around 11, as I had a quick doctors appointment before heading to Grand Rapids.  I was going to join the staff meeting after school remotely, and teach the staff how to use Google Meet.  After I left my appointment, I jumped on the express way only to jump off one exit later and return to school instead.

The next day, we squeezed in a more detailed training with each grade level on the ins and outs of the technology that would become the lifeblood of learning.  I emailed to cancel my sessions at MACUL, apologizing for not being able to come.  

That was the beginning of the end of education as we knew it, life as we knew it, really.

Here we are, one year later, and while there is so much that has sucked about this year, there are some rainbows that came from the storm, too.

  • Our whole staff is now fluent in teaching via Google Meet or Zoom
  • We finally rolled the 1:1 program out in K-4, instead of just 5-8
  • All our PreK - 4th grade teachers are now Seesaw Pioneers
  • All our 5th - 8th grade teachers completed the Google Education Training Level 1
  • So many of my colleagues have wonderfully integrated technology into their teaching (after several years of me modeling, hinting, nudging...!)
  • I spent many, many Friday evenings with Leslie Fisher, one of my favorite conference presenters, and guests that joined her for enlightening and engaging professional development, offered for free, because Leslie is just that awesome.
  • My toolbox had to be expanded because of all the new technology opportunities

Andy Grammar said "Only rainbows after rain."  I don't think anyone expected the rain to last this long... it's nice to see some of those rainbows, finally!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Rings of Responsibility

As we continue our journey into Digital Etiquette and beyond, 3rd graders explored the concept of Rings of Responsibility in tech class.

It was, if I do say so myself, a beautiful marriage of two platforms, brought together in flawless execution for a most memorable experience.


Well, at least it was definitely not flawlessly executed.  Gotta love technology for that!  It was a beautiful marriage of two platforms, though!

I love the chance to model new tools for the teachers, and EdPuzzle was the chosen tool this time around.  It is such a useful platform!  EdPuzzle allows you to take videos from YouTube (or uploaded by you) and insert questions into the video.  It then gives you a summary of each student - how long they spent watching the video, and how they answered each question.

Yes, you can even set it so that kids can't go past a question without answering it.

The question types in the platform are open ended questions and multiple choice.  The multiple choice questions are self-grading, which is awesome.

The feature that made this such a beautiful marriage is the note feature.  Right at the end of the video, I added a note (not a question, but same set-up) that said "Go to Seesaw to complete the activity."

Which means I got a solid picture of the kids learning via the questions they answered in the EdPuzzle video and the activity they completed in Seesaw!

EdPuzzle has a free platform and a paid platform, and right now you can get the paid platform free until July.  Definitely worth checking out!

This post wouldn't be complete without a plug for Common Sense Media.  So many of my Digital Citizenship lesson plans utilize CSM resources that are so user friendly and fun!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Seesaw Connect!

This week, Seesaw hosted a week-long PD series for Seesaw for Schools Administrators.  It was a series of self-paced courses presented through the Seesaw Learning Hub.  Those were supplemented with live mini-sessions to discuss the different topics presented in both the courses, and the "Snapshot" sessions that were available as well.

My week was the usual crazy-busy that is this time of the school year (and if we're being honest, there is no slow time of year in a teacher's world!) so I wasn't able to partake in the live sessions earlier in the week, but I did get to go to three sessions today.

It was SO inspiring!  

My role is a fairly unique one, educational technology coordinator (technical title: Coordinator of Technological Adventures) and it is a treat to collaborate with others in similar roles.  Today, I got to chat with three (mostly) different groups of educators through Seesaw Connect.  They were short bursts, 20 minute sessions, and despite the brevity, they were so energizing!

It reminds me how important those professional conversations are.  For those in roles where they don't have collaborators in house, such as a single media specialist, music teacher, or art teacher, it's even more important to find events like Seesaw Connect.  Because I get to chat with everyone about tech everywhere I go, I forget how powerful these peer-to-peer conversations with those in job-alike situations are.

And.... if you're not a part of the Seesaw community, and your school uses Seesaw, go sign up!  You don't know what you're missing!  Joining the community and taking the modules keeps me updated and excited about Seesaw!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Flipgrid Fakeout

I love Flipgrid.  There is SO much you can do with it!

In prepping our 8th graders for Campaign this year, we really wanted them to be able to record their speeches in a "formal-ish" setting.  Ideally, they'd record with a green screen.  But our recording studio is being used as a classroom this year so that was out.  And most of the kids recorded at home.

Enter Flipgrid. 
And the faux green screen feature. 
Also known as Flipgrid Frames.

Here's a quick how-to video for you!

The custom frames were made using Google Drawings.  I cut out a "hole" in the middle of the image (the video shows just one example) and then saved it as a .png file.  That allows for the transparency.  Watch out... this can be a "oops I just lost two hours playing in the last five minutes" experience!


For the past two months, I have been partaking in a pretty engaging tech challenge.  Hosted by the Google Education Group of Michigan, each week a new challenge is posted and the goal is to tackle the task, conquer the task, and use the learning with students and colleagues.

The ever-persistent procrastinator that I am, I often leave the challenge until Sunday morning to complete (it's due by 8pm Sunday night) and then find myself down the rabbit hole of whatever the tool of the week is.

Some of the tools have been reviews (Jamboard, EdPuzzle,, Kami).  Some have been reminders (Wakelet,  But some have been new tools to me (Trello,, and some of the fancy text generators.)

I know I'm a nerd (proudly!) but I love the digital badges that you get for completing each challenge.  I also love that this is a fantastic model of how to successfully use Google Classroom for professional development.

While it's too late to join the challenge officially, you can still learn from the challenges.  Happy Learning!